Arkansas becomes the third state in a week to report flocks infected with these recently arrived H5 viruses, and the 9th state since the first reports came in last November.
While migratory birds are being eyed as spreading these viruses to commercial poultry operations, as I discussed last fall in Bird Flu Spread: The Flyway Or The Highway?, rigorous biosecurity measures must be implemented to prevent the inadvertent further spread of the virus through the movement of poultry products, transport, or personnel.
CDC considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections in wild birds, backyard flocks and commercial poultry, to be low
WASHINGTON, March 11, 2015 -- The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza (HPAI) in a commercial turkey flock in Boone County, Arkansas. The flock of 40,020 turkeys is located within the Mississippi flyway where this strain of avian influenza has previously been identified. CDC considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections in wild birds, backyard flocks and commercial poultry, to be low.
Samples from the turkey flock, which experienced increased mortality, were tested at the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa confirmed the findings. APHIS is working closely with the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission on a joint incident response. State officials quarantined the affected premises and birds on the property will be depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease. Birds from the flock will not enter the food system.
No human infections with the virus have been detected at this time. The Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission is working directly with poultry workers at the affected facility to ensure that they are taking the proper precautions. As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 ˚F kills bacteria and viruses.
As part of existing avian influenza response plans, Federal and State partners are working jointly on additional surveillance and testing in the nearby area. The United States has the strongest AI surveillance program in the world, and USDA is working with its partners to actively look for the disease in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets and in migratory wild bird populations.
USDA will be informing the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) as well as international trading partners of this finding. USDA also continues to communicate with trading partners to encourage adherence to OIE standards and minimize trade impacts. OIE trade guidelines call on countries to base trade restrictions on sound science and, whenever possible, limit restrictions to those animals and animal products within a defined region that pose a risk of spreading disease of concern.
These virus strains can travel in wild birds without them appearing sick. People should avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, wash your hands with soap and water and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.
All bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, should continue to practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through their state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593. Additional information on biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found at http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov.
With both Missouri and Arkansas reporting outbreaks, it appears that HPAI has arrived with a vengeance in the heart of America’s poultry belt.
Where HPAI H5 turns up next is anyone’s guess, but it has proven its ability to spread rapidly and effectively via migratory birds across the nation and around the globe. Poultry producers in states not yet affected are being advised to take extra biosecurity measures to protect their flocks.